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Theories of the state: Post-colonial

Post-colonialism is a scholarly direction that subsists since the middle of the 20th century. It developed from period of colonialism. The post-colonial direction was formed as colonial countries became independent. Currently, aspects of post-colonialism can be found not only in sciences concerning history, literature and politics, but also in approach to culture and identity of both the countries that were colonised and the former colonial powers. However, post-colonialism can take the colonial time as well as the time after colonialism into consideration.

It is documented in vast literature that post-colonialism is a study of the effects of colonialism on cultures and societies. It is concerned with both how European nations captured and controlled "Third World" cultures and how these groups have since responded to and resisted those encroachments. Post-colonialism, as both a body of theory and a study of political and cultural change, has gone and continues to go through three broad stages:

  1. An initial awareness of the social, psychological, and cultural inferiority enforced by being in a colonized state.
  2. The struggle for ethnic, cultural, and political autonomy.
  3. A growing awareness of cultural overlap and hybridity.

Post-colonial theory is beneficial to appraise a variety of colonial relationship beyond the classic colonizing activities of the British Empire. The concept of boundaries and borders has been crucial in the imperial occupation and domination of indigenous space. And the question of borders and borderlands has now become a persistent issue in an age of increasingly hysterical border protection. Cultural borders are becoming recognized as a critical region of colonial and neo-colonial domination, of cultural erosion, and of class and economic marginalization. The field of post-colonial studies includes the provoked subjects of contemporary neo-colonialism: the identities and relationships of Chicano, Latino and hybrid subjectivities of various kinds. These subjects, who slip between the boundaries of the grand narratives of history and nation, are becoming an increasingly important constituency for post-colonial studies.

Theoretical studies of Post-colonialism focuses on the reading and writing of literature written in previously or currently colonized countries. The work is composed of colonizing countries that deals with colonization or colonized peoples. The Postcolonial theory is a phrase that denotes to the theoretical and critical observations of former colonies of the Western powers and how they relate to, and interact with, the rest of the world. These theories are significantly interested in the cultures of the colonizer and the colonized. Postcolonial theory critically investigate what happens when two cultures clash and one of them ideologically fashions itself as superior and assumes dominance and control over the other. The field of postcolonial studies has itself been hotly contested ever since its rise in the 1970s. Post-colonial theorist also analyzed the processes by which those who were colonized resisted the colonizers.

Three major leader of post-colonial theory are Edward W. Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha. Edward Said that “ Power and knowledge are inseparable”.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak introduced terms such as “Essentialism” and “Strategic Essentialism”. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (born February 24, 1942) was an Indian literary critic and theorist. She is best known for the article & quot; Can the Subaltern Speak?& quot;, considered a founding text of post colonialism , and for her translation of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology.

Another player of post-colonial theories was Homi K. Bhabha. He was an Indian postcolonial theorist. He realized that the post-colonial world should vaporize spaces of mixing; spaces where truth and authenticity move aside for ambiguity. He argued that this space of hybridity, offers the most profound challenge to colonialism.

Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961) was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and author from Martinique. He was proficient in the field of post-colonial studies and was perhaps the pre-eminent philosopher of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have encouraged anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.

The scope of coverage of the term postcolonial differs across disciplinary fields and authors, being broader in literary studies than in political science. Some writers include former settler colonies as referents alongside non-settler colonies. Other analysts, such as Amina Mama, distinguish the term postcolonial, used to refer specifically to former colonies, from the term post-imperial, preferring this term to refer to former imperial powers. In chronological terms, postcolonial does not refer simply to the period after colonialism but assumes continuity, in terms of the continued effects of processes initiated during colonialism, as well as discontinuity, in terms of new processes unfolding consequently. The term postcolonial is used to denote the study of the attempted change, successful and otherwise, of former colonies in the context of changing imperial conditions.

Post-colonialism has progressively become an object of scientific investigation since 1950 when Western intellects interested in the “Third World countries”. In the period of seventies, this interest lead to an integration of discussions about post-colonialism in various study courses at American Universities. Currently, it also plays an outstanding role at European Universities.

A major characteristic of post-colonialism is the rather violent-like, unbuffered contact or clash of cultures as an inevitable result of former colonial times; the relationship of the colonial power to the (formerly) colonised country, its population and culture and vice versa seems extremely vague and inconsistent. This inconsistency of two clashing cultures and the range of problems resulting from it must be regarded as a major subject in post-colonialism. For centuries, the colonial suppressor often had been forcing his civilised values on the natives. But when the native population finally gained independence, the colonial relicts were still ubiquitous, deeply integrated in the natives’ minds and were supposed to be removed. Decolonisation is a process of change, destruction and, in the first place, an attempt to regain and lose power. While natives had to learn how to put independence into practice, colonial powers had to accept the loss of power over foreign countries. Though, both sides have to deal with their past as suppressor and suppressed. This complicated relationship mainly developed from the Eurocentric viewpoint from which the former colonial powers saw themselves. Their colonial policy was often condemned as arrogant, ignorant, brutal and simply naive. Their final colonial failure and the total independence of the once suppressed made the process of decolonisation rather tense and emotional.

Post-colonialism also deals with fights of identity and cultural belonging. Colonial powers came to foreign states and destroyed main parts of native tradition and culture; furthermore, they continuously replaced them with their own ones. This often led to conflicts when countries became independent and suddenly faced the challenge of developing a new nationwide identity and self-confidence.

As generations had lived under the power of colonial sovereigns, they had more or less accepted their Western tradition and culture. The challenge for these countries was to find a distinct way of proceeding to call their own. They could not get rid of the Western way of life from one day to the other; they could not manage to create a completely new one either. On the other hand, former colonial powers had to change their self-assessment. This inconsistency identification process seems to be what decolonisation is all about, while post-colonialism is the intellectual direction that deals with it and maintains a steady analysis from both perspectives.

History of Indian colonialism:

Abundant of literature denote that in the 16th century, European powers began to conquer small outposts along the Indian coast. Portugal, the Netherlands and France ruled different regions in India before the “British East India Company” was founded in 1756.

The British colonialists managed to control most parts of India while ruling the major cities Calcutta, Madras and Bombay as the main British bases. However, there still remained a few independent regions (Kashmir among others) whose lords were loyal to the British Empire.

In 1857, the first major revolt occurred in the north of India. The incident is also named “First war of Indian Independence”, the “Sepoy Rebellion” or the “Indian Mutiny”, depending on the individual perspective. This was the first time Indians agitated in huge numbers against the presence and the rule of the British in South Asia. The rebellion failed and the British colonialists continued their rule.

In 1885, the “National Indian Congress” was formed. It demanded that the Indians should have their proper authentic share in the government. From then on, the Congress developed into the main body of opposition against British colonial rule. Besides, a Muslim anti-colonial organisation was founded in 1906, called the “Muslim League”. While most parts of the Indian population remained loyal to the British colonial power during the First World War, majority of Muslim people joined the Indian independence movement since they were annoyed about the division of the Ottoman Empire by the British.

The non-violent resistance against British colonial rule, mainly initiated and organised by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, finally lead to independence in 1947. At the same time, the huge British colony was split into two nations: The secular Indian Union and the smaller Muslim state of Pakistan. The Muslim League had demanded for an independent Muslim state with a majority of Muslims. India became a member of the British Commonwealth after 1947.

Post-colonial development in India:

The Partition of India (also called the “Great Divide”) had devastating impact on Indian culture and civilization. It led to vast movements and an ethnic conflict across the Indian-Pakistani border. While around 10 million Hindus and Sikhs were ousted from Pakistan, about 7 million Muslims crossed the border to from India to Pakistan. Huge number of people died in this battle. Ever since these incidents, there have been tensions between India and Pakistan which lead to different wars mainly in the Kashmir region.

Since many decades, the Congress Party ruled the democratic country which had become a republic with its own constitution in 1950. In 1977, the opposition gained the majority of votes. In 1984, after the Congress Party had regained the majority, conflicts with the cultural minority of the Sikhs lead to the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi.

Presently, besides the significant economic development, India is still facing its conventional issues such as Poverty, overpopulation, environmental pollution as well as ethnic and religious conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. Furthermore, the Kashmir conflict has not come to an end yet, while both Pakistan and Indian are threatening each other with their arsenals of atomic armaments.

Concerning post-colonial literature, Edward Said’s book “Orientalism” (published in 1978) is considered as the commencement of post-colonial studies. In this book, the author analyses how European states initiated colonialism as a result of what they called their own racial superiority.

The religious-ethnic conflicts between different groups of people had an important role in the early years of post-colonialism. Observers from both sides of the Indian-Pakistani conflict wrote about their feelings and experience during genocide, being confronted to blind and irrational violence and hatred. The Partition is often labelled as an Indian disturbance. This trauma can be illustrated through one example by a post-colonial scriptwriter who wrote about this conflict is Saddat Hasan Manto (1912 – 1955). He was enforced to leave Bombay and to settle in Lahore, Pakistan. He published a collection of stories and sketches (“Mottled Dawn”) that deal with this disturbing era of Indian history and its vast social consequences and uncountable disasters.

Additionally, there are many different approaches to the topic of intercultural exchange between the British and the Indian population. Countless essays and novels deal with the ambiguous relationship between these two nations. One particularly interesting phenomenon is that authors from both sides try to write from different angles and perspectives and in that way to show empathy with their cultural counterpart.

Salman Rushdie, most famous writer wrote about these social and cultural exchanges. Rushdie, who won the booker prize among various others, was born in India, but studied in England and started writing books about India and the British in the early eighties. His funny, brave, metaphoric and sometimes even ironical way of writing offers a multi-perspective approach to the post-colonial complex. This can be also understood in his book “Midnight’s Children”. In the past, Salman Rushdie was also constantly threatened by Irani fundamentalists because of his critical writing about Muslim extremism in the Middle East.

Regarding the integration of Western values in the Indian population and culture, it can be said that the British influence is still pervasive in the Asian subcontinent. It is due to the persistence of the English language. Many Indians are acquainted with the English language, because the British colonialists intended to export their values and culture by teaching the Indian population their language. This was considered as the basic fundamental for further education.

The history of the postcolonial state is at the centre of Bayart's analysis. He concentrated on the origin of the state, the strategies of the actors, the procedures of accumulation and the world of political make-believe, all of which contribute to social inequality. Bayart's suggestive phrase, "the politics of the belly," denotes to desires and practices related with interconnected themes such as poverty and food scarcity; accumulation, corruption, and sexual excess. These are all implicit as changing patterns of historical action, that are set in a network of tensions and interdependence, and that act upon one another. Bayart emphasized the ways in which authoritarian governments have managed to maintain control over security forces and economic rents whilst maintaining the support of Western powers and international financial institutions. African postcolonial states rested on original social bases whilst simultaneously being connected to the international system. Bayart's approach counters the notion of African states and societies as lacking history, and of African politics as absent or inexplicable. These prevailed in colonial historiography, in philosophy, and continue today in mainstream Western sociology and political science.

In the decade of the 1980s, substantial academic theories centred on the social sciences and focused to the "crisis" of the African state. The literature has also scrutinized the shifting orientations of international financial institutions, from initially increasing the interventionist powers of the state to reversing that position by the mid-1980s. In a political climate defined by neoliberalism and marked by structural adjustment programs, researchers of diverse ideological orientations are unified in their severe criticism of international financial institutions, their appropriation of the concept of the "overdeveloped state" and the effects of their policy impositions on diverse categories of people. The literature has considered the activities of international financial institutions as "rolling back the state" and avoiding the autonomy of the state in several critical ways through policy prescriptions and financing patterns.

Post structural analysis of Achille Mbembe of the "postcolony" draws attention not just to the historical strength and purpose of the state but also to questions of power, its manifestations and the different methods of enhancing its value to either ensure abundance or scarcity. With reference to Africa, it is observed that before and after colonization, state power in Africa expanded its value by establishing specific relations of subjection that were informed by the distribution of wealth and tribute, and that shaped modes of constituting the postcolonial subject. Postcolonial states were strongly influenced by the modalities of their integration into world trade, such as reliance on one or more major resources for export, and whether they were financed through the peasantry, aid, or debt. Their modalities of integration shaped the forms taken by postcolonial states; the ways in which their governing elites were inserted into international networks; and the structuring of relations among state, market, and society. Mbembe highlights the significance of the links that the postcolonial state in Africa forged among interrelated fields. These were the production of violence, the allocation of privileges and livelihoods, and systems of transfer, such as the reciprocities and obligations comprising the communal social tie. The state's systems of allocations and transfers were significant in underpinning social and political cohesion and, thereby, the state's legality.

Mbembe also concentrated to the present destruction of state legitimacy since the concentration of the means of coercion by the postcolonial state is difficult to achieve given the acute lack of material resources. Instead, autonomous power centres proliferate within what used to be a system. This is a consequence of the growing indebtedness of local rulers and trading elites, thus leading African polities to lose external power and exposing them to the risk of internal dissolution. The violence and predation required by the new form of integration into the international economy has led not only to the militarization of power and trade, and to increased extortion, but also to serious weakening of the trade-offs that had previously governed the relationship between holding state power and pursuing private gain. The notion of the state as a general device of rule and as the best instrument for making possible the exercise of citizenship is thus being seriously endangered.

Feminist Analyses of the Postcolonial State:

Against major approaches of post-colonial state, major discussion among feminist analysts of the postcolonial state concerns the extent to which the state contributes for social change with the intention to increase gender equality. For example, in Morocco in the early 1990s, the revolutionising state drew women into the public area through law and education. The other side of the argument concerns the state as a mechanism for male social control and the convergence between the state and patriarchal forces. Where politics becomes deeply communalized, particularly when it is supported by state-sponsored religious fundamentalism, the traditional control over women that rested with particular male individuals such as fathers, brothers, husbands soon shifts to all men. Sonia Alvarez contended that there is nothing essential about the state's ability to act in either direction social change or social control but that its route is more likely to be determined by political government and historical conjuncture.

Famous feminist analyst Shirin Rai theorized that the state as a network of power relations that are located in economic, political, legal, and cultural forms interacting with and against each other. This allows her to scrutinize the state in the context of social relations formed by systems of power, which are themselves affected by struggles against these systems. Rai signified that the state may take different forms in different historical, social, and economic contexts, as in the case of postcolonial states emerging from tussles against imperialism and colonial rule. The nationalist opposition to colonialism was itself situated within the modernizing framework favoured by colonialists. The prioritization of goals, first by the nationalist movement and then by the postcolonial state, removed issues that potentially challenged the modernist developmental conceptions of the new nation-state, such as women's interests and rights.

Rai emphasized three features of postcolonial states that are significant for women's strategizing for social change. The first concerns the transformative role of the state. Most nationalist leaders saw themselves as representatives for social and economic transformation, and state institutions were also comparatively autonomous from dominant social classes. This allows space for institutional and political struggles. Second feature of postcolonial state is that the infrastructural capacity of the state is patchy, resulting in the possibility of activists targeting sympathetic institutions and individuals within the state. Third, the existing level of dishonesty is an important element of whether negotiation within the state is possible or not. Rai indicated that one of the important implications of the poststructuralist conception of power as dispersed is the acknowledgement that power takes diverse forms and can be used in varied ways. Simply taking an adversarial position against the state may be positively risky for women, given the deeply masculinity character of society, including civil society.

Amina Mama evaluated the gendered character of state establishment, state practices, and militarism. In an earlier paper, Mama had discussed that, in an international context, highly influenced by women's movements, the military regimes of Generals Ibrahim Babangida (1985–1993) and Sani Abacha (1993–1998) were appropriating Nigerian women and their struggles whilst seeking legitimacy for their continued rule. Later, she polished this position by pointing out that the situation was more complex than this. This complexity included the fact that the politics of transition, and hence its gender politics, was more improvised than planned and took several turns in different and contradictory directions. Moreover, Nigerian women, in diverse and competing ways, were not passive but actively engaged in the political manoeuvres.

Drawing on Michel Foucault's theorization of power as dispersed, Mama speculated power as dispersed across micropolitical, existential states of being as well as more macropolitical formations such as the nation-state. This allows her to consider ways in which these different levels of social reality come together to produce resonance and, potentially, dissonance. Mama also draws on the feminist philosopher Judith Butler's development of Foucault's theorization of power debating that being implicated by relations of power does not rule out the possibility of subversion. Mama scrutinized the gender discourses voiced by the Heads of State and their wives in successive administrations, the programs and political practices articulated by these discourses, and the different structural changes made in efforts to institutionalize them. In the process, she emphasized the interaction among power, knowledge, and practice that expedited the manufacture of consent to the military regimes dominating the workings of the state.

Rajeswari Sunder Rajan described the changing, heterogeneous character of the postcolonial state in India in her examination of the state's contradictory positions toward female citizens. In a feminist analysis of social realities textured by divisions of age, ethnicity, religion, and class, Sunder Rajan investigated women's lives, needs, and struggles around issues such as child marriage, compulsory sterilization, female infanticide, and prostitution. She demonstrated how the state is critical to an understanding of women's individual and group identities at the same time as women and their struggles affect the operations of the state.

The advocates of the theory scrutinize the ways in which writers from colonized countries attempt to eloquent their cultural identities and reclaim them from the colonizers. They also examined ways in which the literature of the colonial powers is used to justify colonialism through the perpetuation of images of the colonized as inferior. However, postcolonial theory have proved controversial, and some writers have sturdily critiqued the whole idea.

Issues in Postcolonial Theory:

Post-colonial theory mainly associated with the reading and writing of literature written in previously or currently colonized countries, or literature written in colonizing countries which deals with colonization or colonized peoples. It focuses mainly on the way in which literature by the colonizing culture distorts the experience and realities, and inscribes the inferiority, of the colonized people on literature by colonized peoples which attempts to articulate their identity and reclaim their past in the face of that past's inevitable otherness. It can also deal with the way in which literature in colonizing countries appropriates the language, images, scenes, traditions and so forth of colonized countries.

Postcolonial theory is built mainly around the concept of otherness. There are problems with or complexities to the concept of otherness, for instance: otherness includes doubleness, both identity and difference, so that every other, every different than and excluded by is dialectically created and includes the values and meaning of the colonizing culture even as it rejects its power to define. The western concept of the oriental is based, as Abdul Jan Mohamed argues, on the Manichean allegory (seeing the world as divided into mutually excluding opposites). If the west is ordered, rational, masculine, good, then the orient is chaotic, irrational, feminine, and evil. Simply to opposite this polarizing is to be complicit in its totalizing and identity-destroying power. Colonized peoples are highly diverse in their nature and in their traditions, and as beings in cultures they are both constructed and changing, so that while they may be 'other' from the colonizers, they are also different one from another and from their own pasts, and should not be totalized or essentialized through such concepts as a black consciousness, Indian soul, aboriginal culture and so forth. This totalization and essentialization is often a form of homesickness which has its motivation more in the thought of the colonizers than of the colonized, and it gives the colonizer a sense of the unity of his culture while mystifying that of others. As John Frow comments that it is a making of a mythical. One out of many the colonized peoples will also be other than their pasts, which can be reclaimed but never rebuilt, and so must be revisited and realized in partial, fragmented ways.

A critical approach with an optimistic opinion of postcolonial theory is more preferable than a pessimistic view. According to Bhabha (1994), postcolonial criticism “bears witness to the unequal and universal forces of cultural representation” that are involved in a constant competition for political and economic control in the contemporary world. Furthermore, Bhabha observed postcolonial critique emerging from colonial experiences. He debated that “Postcolonial perspectives emerge from the colonial testimony of Third World countries and the discourses of “minorities” within the geopolitical divisions of East and West, North and South. They intervene in those ideological discourses of modernity that attempt to give a hegemonic “normality” to the uneven development and the differential, often disadvantaged, histories of nations, race, communities, and peoples.”

Postcolonial theory expresses its critique around the social histories, cultural differences and political discrimination that are practised and normalised by colonial and imperial machineries. According to Young (2001), postcolonial critique is concerned with the history of colonialism “only to the extent that history has determined the configurations and power structures of the present.” Postcolonial critique also recognises anti-colonial movements as the source and inspiration of its politics. Young debated that postcolonial theory as a “political discourse” emerged mainly from experiences of oppression and struggles for freedom after the “tricontinental” awakening in Africa, Asia and Latin America: the continents associated with poverty and conflict. Postcolonial criticism focuses on the oppression and coercive domination that operate in the contemporary world (Young).

To summarize, postcolonial theory is a literary theory or critical approach that associated with literature created in countries that were once, or are now, colonies of other countries. It also emphasized literature written in or by citizens of colonizing countries that takes colonies or their peoples as its subject matter. Postcolonial theory attempts to focus on the oppression of those who were ruled under colonization. Post-colonial theorist believe that the colonizers imposed their own values onto those colonized so that they were internalized. The theory is based on the notions of otherness and resistance. Post-colonialism is an intense discussion about what happened with the colonial thinking at the end of the colonial era and what legacy arouse from this era? It also deals with social, cultural and economic consequences seen and are still visible today. In these perspectives, scholars appraised alternating experiences of suppression, resistance, gender, migration and so forth. While doing so, both the colonising and colonised side are taken into consideration and related to each other. The main objective of post-colonialism is to review and to deconstruct one-sided, worn-out attitudes in energetic debate of colonisation.